Tuesday, March 08, 2005

UCC Blog Ads

If you look over at the left side of the main page on Daily Kos, you'll see a web ad for my own denomination, the United Church of Christ, for their "God Is Still Speaking" campaign. The infamous "bouncer" ad rejected by NBC and CBS in December was part of this campaign, and the denomination is working to launch round two.

They explain a bit of the strategy in this press release from the national offices:

Hailing weblogs as the "next great revolution in journalism," the United Church of Christ today (March 8) released its network-rejected "bouncer ad" on nearly 50 of the most widely-read blogs.

The UCC's blogads will run for two weeks on a mix of liberal, moderate and conservative sites, including many of the most prominent political, cultural and religious blogs - such as Eschaton, Power Line , Talking Points Memo, Andrew Sullivan, DailyKos and This Modern World, among dozens of others.


Church leaders made the decision to purchase blog ad space after the major broadcast networks rejected a second request in March to allow the ad to run, Chase said. A similar rejection occurred in December 2004 when the ad campaign was launched.


The web-based advertisements are part of an overall $1 million advertising strategy by the church in March, during the remaining weeks of Lent - just before Easter. In addition to blogads, the church is utilizing cable television, radio and print publications.

"Knowing little of blogs six months ago, we increasingly recognize that these folks are informational trend setters," Chase said. "If this ad campaign goes as planned, we'll consider shifting even more to blogs and away from traditional media the next go around."

The blog's emergence, Chase said, can be equated to the invention of the printing press, the development of radio and television, or the availability of 24-hour cable news stations.

"It's a great investment of our advertising dollars," he said.

In December 2004, the earliest reports of the networks' reject of the ad were written by bloggers, Chase pointed out.

"Because of the attention that bloggers gave to the UCC's story, the networks no longer could hide their censorship of an intentionally-welcoming, progressive religious message," Chase said. "It's something we're seeing happen more and more - the most credible, engaging news reports are coming from bloggers."

In January, when the UCC issued an invitation of "unequivocal welcome" to SpongeBob SquarePants, the popular cartoon character criticized by James Dobson's Focus on the Family and other conservative groups for promoting tolerance, the UCC was again the subject of blog fodder.

At the time, Paul Waldman on the blog Gadflyer.com wrote, "The United Church of Christ is fast emerging as the coolest denomination around - not only are they delivering a message of love and welcoming, but they actually have a sense of humor, something that, with all due respect, is not usually in evidence among those of strong faith."

The UCC's five-year advertising campaign, said Chase, attempts to drive home, in dramatic fashion, the feelings of alienation experienced by many non-churchgoers who say they have felt excluded or unwelcomed by institutional churches for a variety of reasons.

Above and beyond the obvious point--that blogs continue to grow in size and importance--there are several things worth noting.

  1. This is part and parcel of the UCC's attempt to counteract the exclusionary tone of much of modern Christianity. We are quickly becoming something of a "netroots" church.

  2. Kos, I hope you're giving them a good rate.

  3. I'll brag a bit--I made this suggestion to the national offices back in December. I'm not claiming credit, though. It's really an obvious call, particularly for the UCC, whose leadership has some very talented PR and advertising people on staff.

  4. I'm also a bit miffed, because they rolled out this ad without offering it to the smaller UCC blogs (yes, we're out there, and yes, they know we are). I've put in a request to run the ad over at faithforward. We'll see what comes of it.


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